I have been a customer at format for a long time, a small, beautiful boutique for women of a certain age. I have always been well served, well advised and you can leave without buying anything. I therefore wanted to know the background to the philosophy of the shop owner, Pia Grüninger, and asked her to answer my questions.

After many years working in the fashion industry, Pia Grüninger dared to go into business for herself in 2009 at the age of 49! What courage! And yet, if you look at her current business model, it is understandable that she dared to take this step.

Pia Grüninger is committed to socially acceptable and ecological fashion. What exactly does that mean?

She doesn't buy anything, absolutely nothing, from Asia. She designs the patterns herself and selects the fabrics based on ecological considerations. Her clothes are often made of silk or cashmere, and the suppliers are based in Europe (Germany, Italy and Belgium). Ms Grüninger works with four different factories in northern Italy and visits them unannounced. It is important to her that the workers in these factories receive a decent wage. Pia Grüninger also works with two seamstresses from the canton of Basel-Landschaft. Only small quantities of each model are produced.

Our conversation also revolved around the fashion chains, which employ mainly very young women in sales, for relatively low monthly wages and with little prospect of being able to build up a decent pension fund for old age. The cheap prices for fashion from large corporations are not only due to the low wages of employees, but also because the products are manufactured in Asia. Sometimes under unspeakable conditions. Among other things, child labor is involved.

Ms Grüninger explains that she feels that she is getting more tired than before. From design to fabric purchasing, from unpacking to bookkeeping, as a generalist she does everything almost on her own. That is why she is happy to have her two employees, who she can trust completely. From the very beginning, Pia Grüninger has employed two women part-time to replace her. One of the women is already of AHV age, the other will be soon too. "Retiring" the employees in the true sense of the word is out of the question for Ms Grüninger. She says that she relies on a certain level of maturity on the part of the employee, on experience and sensitivity in dealing with customers, on reliability and also on enjoyment of the work. format's customers range in age from 40 to 80. Ms Grüninger laughs and says: "I make fashion for adult women!" And why do without the competence and many years of professional experience of employees just because they receive AHV?

However, if one of the ladies wants to give up her part-time job, Pia Grüninger thinks it would be best to look at seniors@work and certainly not to look at the university website, which students use to look for part-time jobs. Nothing against students! But for a middle-aged clientele, a trained textile salesperson with a lot of experience is more sustainable.

Mrs Grüninger also tells me that she already knows the website seniors@work and is happy to follow its increasing success in finding work for senior citizens.

The time spent with Pia Grüninger was extremely interesting. As an employer, I believe she is a role model in that she sees her employees as people and not as “goods” that are sidelined when they reach retirement age.

Thank you very much, Ms. Grüninger, for the open conversation.

One Comment

  1. Laubach

    It's always nice to shop at Mrs. Grüninger's, she has so many beautiful things. And it's also very important that everything is made locally.
    Keep it up, please….

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